Can the NYT, WaPo and Mozilla create a system to quiet the trolls in your comments?

The Washington Post

A partnership between the New York Times, the Washington Post and Mozilla aims to create a commenting system to address the nasty status quo in Web comments, where there’s an “incentive to be the loudest voice.”

“The two-year development project will be funded by a $3.89 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,” Paul Farhi writes in the Post.

The Web desperately needs a solution to the vexing problem of commenting. Chicago Sun-Times managing editor Craig Newman called his site’s comment section a “morass of negativity, racism, and hate speech” when that paper (where I used to work) eliminated it in April.

Some would-be solutions, like YouTube requiring a Google+ login to comment and the Huffington Post requiring a Facebook login, have infuriated commenters who are fiercely protective of their anonymity. Anonymous commenters are often less civil but more engaged.

The NYT-WaPo-Mozilla partnership aims to quiet — if not eliminate — trolls. The trick will be to make sure the most productive comments are rewarded and the leas productive comments are penalized — without requiring the cumbersome, round-the-clock moderation that most newsrooms can’t afford:

The most ambitious aim of the project is to create a feature that would efficiently highlight the most relevant and pertinent reader comments on an article, perhaps through word-recognition software. Another feature would categorize and rank commenters according to their previous postings.


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  • Phillip Blanchard

    It’s a worthy goal, but the price is high.